“Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. Acts 12:13-17 NIV
You do not have to look very far into the early church to see that many of the followers of Christ understood locked in or lockdown in a way that we are not able to grasp. While we have had to face some new challenges in the past few months, being in the comfort of our homes, with internet, all the food we can imagine, and the ability to connect via many different avenues to whomever we want, is not the kind of lockdown or lock in that would have been a part of their story.
Many of the early church believers would be thrown into a prison cell for simply being associated with the Name of Jesus. If they preached His Name, they could not only face imprisonment, but they risked their very lives facing martyrdom. When these believers were locked into these cold, isolated prison cells, they were not given bonuses from the government, they were not given a cell phone to text their buddies, in fact, what they did have would often be taken from them and they would have no idea when their lock down would end or if it ever would.
Peter is an example of this. He finds himself locked in jail with no clear path in front of him. He does not know if this is the end for him or when he will ever see the light of day again. While he is in jail, the church is meeting in a home and they are praying for him. They are asking God for his release. They are petitioning the Lord for Peter’s lock in to end. While they pray, God sends an angel to shake Peter awake and open the door for his release. Peter is not expecting it, he has no idea what is even going on but God steps into Peter’s lock in and in a moment in time by God’s Hand, Peter’s lockdown is over.
This is a powerful truth that I believe we as the body of Christ need to grasp clearly in this moment. At any moment that God decides to shift what has been imposed by others upon our lives, He is able to do it. We are not held in by the restrictions we think are holding us. We are only held until God sends His angels and says, “Time is up.”
Seeing this with God as the One holding our lives is so vital to us being in peace. When we give the power of our lives to a physical restraint or to man then we put our confidence in them releasing us. When we put our lives in God’s Hand, we trust and have confidence in His power to release us when He so chooses.
Peter is released as an answer to the prayer of the Church. He leaves the place he was locked in and knocks on the door of those praying for him. One would expect that they would open the door and begin to praise God for His answering their prayer, but that is not what happens in the immediate at least. Peter knocks, and those asking God to release him from the lock in are in such disbelief that he stands outside their door now locked out.
Think about that for a minute. The ones wanting his release, wanting a miracle, wanting God to change the situation, are the ones who left Peter on the outside when God does it. While we know they did eventually let him in, there is a lesson here. It appeared he was locked in by man but locked out by the church. Even the believer can miss what is right in front of them at times when they become focused on the circumstances rather than on Who God is and What God is able to do.
What do I see here? I see Peter as an example for us to look at God and not at the limits, or the moment in front of us. Far too many followers of Christ are consumed with “Peter” being in lockdown and they are missing the “Peter” standing at their door.
God is working. We have to believe that not only when we see evidence of it but when things don’t make sense to us as well. It is a journey of faith and if we live our lives believing that we are at the mercy of “prison walls” and not at the mercy of a God who works in all things, we will miss the answer to our prayer as it stands knocking at our door.
Christ is building his Church. We should be excited that He called us in this generation to be a part of the work He is doing in this hour. He trusted and knew that there would be a body of believers alive in this hour who would not look at the prison walls but would look into the eyes of their Saviour and know He was leading them out!
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I refuse to believe that He is not working. I refuse to believe that His Bride is falling apart, but I am fully convinced she will arise fully adorned and made ready as she has sought Him completely in this very season.
Let’s open the door and see what He is about to do with all who believe He is who He says He is.
Roberta Taylor says:May 22, 2020 at 9:12 pm
I always loved this story. From the moment the angel kicked him in the side to the picture of him standing looking at a locked door, I found a sad humour running through the story.
Humour, because it was so real to human nature and sad, because I recognized myself at times. Praying and believing then not recognizing God’s hand when it moves.
Sue Holmes says:May 23, 2020 at 12:50 am
You are not alone there Roberta. How often have I been surprised by God when what has taken place is part of the very nature of God? More than I care to mention. I am thankful that He turns our lumps of coal into diamonds, our messes into messages & our tests into testimonies. I am thankful for His body as we together bring all the pieces of the ‘puzzle’ of God to form a wonderful mosaic of HIM.
Sue Holmes says:May 23, 2020 at 12:28 am
Two characters stand out to me in this week’s study. The first being Peter. I have always liked Peter. He doesn’t hide who he is … he is impulsive and he is very real.
His imprisonment was a follow-up to John’s brother James being imprisoned. James was close to Peter& was killed in order to ‘please the people’. Undoubtedly, Peter was expecting to face the same fate & apart from God had little hope. Weary, in chains & alone except for the 4 soldiers guarding him, what else was there to do but sleep? In fact, sleep was probably a welcome relief from the conditions in the prison. And it was Passover week so Peter’s time in chains, his agony, had been extended a few days. He may have been hoping to be reunited with Christ when he awoke.
So where do I find myself here? I am with Peter being awakened by the angel but questioning if it is real. Until he was clear of the prison Peter was thinking maybe it was all a dream … a vision. I have often wondered when God’s promises seem long in being fulfilled … did I hear Him right? Maybe what I thought was God was just my own wishful thinking? Maybe I am asking too much. Maybe … maybe … the list could go on & on.
And now we come to Rhoda. She is described as a servant girl. Much as been made of the fact that she left Peter standing outside the door. I have chuckled at that as well. But at the same time several things now stand out to me concerning Rhoda.
First she was a servant. Second, the servant, without seeing him, recognized Peter’s voice. Third, the servant was overcome with joy. Finally, the servant’s first instinct was to run to share the good news. Shouldn’t these be the exact actions of a servant of God? I don’t recall Rhoda being mentioned elsewhere but I realize here in this one action that Rhoda has set the example of what a follower of Christ should be like.
They were gathered at John Mark’s house to pray. Peter had probably spent considerable time there & Rhoda had probably been listening to Peter speak of the Gospel & of Christ, the One who suffered a brutal death so those who believed & accepted wouldn’t have to. She had most likely heard Peter speak of Christ’s grace, mercy, love & forgiveness. I envision Rhoda captivated by the stories Peter had relayed during his visits with John Mark. In that case it is little wonder she knew Peter’s voice. She had probably rehearsed those stories over & over her mind. I have to ask myself, if I don’t recognize God’s voice, is it because I am not spending enough quality time listening to Him. Do I let ‘life’ crowd in to the extent that I no longer hear the nuances of mercy, grace & love that are interlaced in God’s Word to me? Does the sound of His voice still excite me as it should? Sadly, not always.
Rhoda’s joy caused her to run with the good news! This brings to mind the ladies at the empty tomb. They came expecting to anoint Jesus’ body for burial but found the tomb vacated. Learning that Jesus had risen as He had told them He would, they ran with excitement to tell Peter & the others. Interestingly, those ladies met with the same unbelief & ridicule that Rhoda initially met.
I have often heard it said that it was love & mercy that held Christ to the cross … not the nails. Neither does the government restrictions nor the covid-19 statistics define our lockdown. If we truly are following Christ & carrying His cross, then it is love & mercy that forms the borders of our lockdown. I am not saying that we don’t have to follow our government guidelines & restrictions. But our love for God should compel us to embrace the lockdown in as much as it doesn’t explicitly contradict God’s word. We need to recognize God’s voice in this season & seize the opportunities to share His message in ways that the pre-lockdown era maybe didn’t afford us.
Jesus said, in identifying His disciples, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) A little further on He identifies Truth, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (V 36) & “I am the way, the truth & the life” (John 14:6) Our only freedom is in Christ. Our love for Him & His love for us is what defines our freedom. God has always asked for nothing less than our whole hearts. Jeremiah 24:7 states “ I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.” Again, “ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
One worthy occupation during what we call a lockdown can be described by one who had mastered being locked down by the world, the Apostle Paul to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2: 1-4)
Following these guidelines might make my very comfortable lockdown pass a little quicker with consequences as unexpected as those encountered by the first century followers of Christ.
J Holmes says:May 23, 2020 at 1:17 am
As you know, since Jesus died, we have been put in “lockdown”, awaiting the final judgment… death. Wait a minute… didn’t the scripture say the “fowl” escaped its cage?! (Ps.91:3)
Yes, sin took us down, locked us up, all have sinned… and the death sentence was passed… and our names taken out of the book of life. Who could possibly remove such filth that stains every aspect of our lives… and the penalty that had been passed upon us?
God only, could provide the substitute for our sickness and sin… a perfect “man” substitute who took death for us… who never sinned, being the very son of the Living God, humbled Himself, and died the death of the cross, (Phil.2:8) who also rose from the dead, the firstborn of many. Who would take hold of this truth… that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3: 16,17)
Have you therefore not noticed how it is not us, who have accepted Christ, but rather it is the world that is in lockdown. They are in a dark place awaiting judgment. “…this is condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) Judgment is coming… our hope in in Christ (Heb.9:26-28) And many are in darkness, in lock down, because this Prince of this world had blinded them that they cannot see, and know the light of the gospel. (Eph2:2), ( 2Cor.4:3,4)
Pray for those in lockdown, that they may be set free, like the bird that escapes his cage. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Gal.5:1) . By grace, you have been saved through faith. (Eph.2:5.6)
How can we who have died with Christ ever consider ourselves in lockdown? To the world we have been crucified and to us so has the world, been placed in lockdown! (Gal.6:14) We are in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph.5:6) Our lives are referenced in Him, hid in Christ, standing upon the solid Rock.
Tracy says:June 1, 2020 at 2:24 pm
Like Auntie Roberta, so often, after praying and “believing” for something to be done, I have not recognized God’s response to a matter. Why am I continually surprised when I see God’s answers, time and time again? Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.